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Period Ending November 30, 2018

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This weekly roundup of election news and notes is compiled for Thompson Coburn by the The Ellis Insight.

President

An Early Schedule: Though the 2020 primary/caucus election schedule is far from being finalized, at least ten states are considering moving their primary or caucus date to the election calendar's beginning stage, which could mean that early voting in several places will coincide with the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary.

Officials in Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont are reportedly all looking at early delegate selection dates. By party rule for both Democrats and Republicans, the Iowa caucus, New Hampshire primary, Nevada caucus, and South Carolina primary must be the initial scheduled events, but the aforementioned states appear ready to encroach upon the First Four's domain.

Sen. Bennet: Add yet another US Senator to the potential presidential candidate rolls. Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D) confirms that he, too, is thinking of entering the presidential campaign. Among more than 20 other prospective contenders, Sen. Bennet, if he were to run, might directly oppose his state's outgoing Governor, John Hickenlooper. As many as ten sitting US Senators could enter the presidential campaign, among the most serious being Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and, of course, Bernie Sanders (I-D/VT).

Gov. Cuomo: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), fresh from a 58% re-election victory to a third term, said definitively late this week that he would not enter the burgeoning Democratic presidential primary field. With more potential candidates expressing interest daily, Gov. Cuomo has effectively taken any budding national candidacy for himself off the political table. Mr. Cuomo said he ran again for Governor to accomplish certain things for the state of New York, and he intends to concentrate on implementing his stated goals.

Senate

Alabama: Potential US Senate candidates are already beginning to make preparatory moves for challenging Sen. Doug Jones (D), who must stand for election to a full six-year term next year. State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R), who initially looked toward running for Governor but backed off when Lt. Governor Kay Ivey (R) ascended to the state's top position and quickly began to solidify party support, announced that he is filing an exploratory committee to assess his chances against Sen. Jones.

We can expect to see a crowded Republican primary field, including perhaps former Attorney General and US Senator Jeff Sessions (R) who has not ruled out making a bid for his former position. US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) is another major political figure expected to make a run for the Senate post. Clearly, Sen. Jones, who was elected in the controversial 2017 special election, is the most vulnerable national Democratic incumbent seeking re-election.

Colorado: The final 2018 Senate race ended this week, and already we see a 2020 challenger announcement. Lorena Garcia, the president of the Colorado Statewide Parents Coalition, announced that she will seek the Democratic nomination in order to challenge Sen. Cory Gardner (R). We can expect to see many Democratic candidates coming forth to make this race, but Ms. Garcia is first to make a definitive announcement.

Mississippi: Appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) won the special Mississippi run-off election this week with a 54-46% margin over former US Agriculture Secretary and ex-Mississippi Congressman Mike Espy (D). Despite making several gaffes in the run-off cycle, Ms. Hyde-Smith won a comfortable victory though understandably a few points shy of a typical Republican statewide vote total. In comparison, Sen. Roger Wicker (R) was re-elected to his third term in this year's regular election with a 58-39% victory margin.

The Republican win brings next year's Senate partisan division to 53R-47D with all of the 2018 election cycle races now decided, a net gain of two seats when compared to the previous Congress. Eight of the members will constitute the freshman class. This number does not include the two appointed Senators, Tina Smith (D-MN) and Ms. Hyde-Smith, who have now been elected in their own right. In 2020, 22 Republicans will be defending their seats versus just 12 Democrats, the opposite of the 2018 situation where the latter party was on the defensive in 26 of the 35 election campaigns.

Montana: Gov. Steve Bullock (D), who is ineligible to seek a third term in 2020, late this week again ruled out launching a challenge to Sen. Steve Daines (R) who is in-cycle in the next election. The statement fuels speculation that Mr. Bullock will form a presidential campaign committee. It has been no secret that the Governor has been testing the national political waters about joining the bulging Democratic field of presidential candidates.

House

The House Numbers: With the 2018 campaign results now in the books, or close to it (the one exception being the outstanding CA-21 race that now favors Democrat T.J. Cox to defeat GOP Rep. David Valadao), we can look at the detailed composition of the new House.

In January, the chamber will feature 235 Democrats and 200 Republicans, a gain of 40 Democratic seats when compared to the previous Congress. A total of 93 are freshmen, not counting the eight members who came to the House as special election winners in 2017 and '18 who were elected to a full term earlier this month. Of the 93 freshmen, 62 are Democrats. A total of 244 House members will have served three full terms or less when the new Congress convenes, making this the least senior chamber in the modern political era.

CA-21: Though California Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford/ Bakersfield) had been projected as the winner, the state's marathon post-election day counting process appears to be producing a different outcome. Though the counting is still not complete and likely won't be until early next week, Democratic challenger T.J. Cox has taken a 591-vote lead over the Congressman as a new batch of Kern, Kings, and Fresno County votes were reported. It is difficult to say how many mail, overseas, and provisional votes remain since the 21st is split among four counties and the domain totals report in aggregate, but California political experts anticipate that this trend will hold giving Democrats their seventh conversion victory in the Golden State alone.

FL-26: Two-term Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Miami) lost his congressional seat to Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell earlier this month and says it is unlikely that he will run for Congress in 2020. The outgoing Congressman did say, however, that he has interest in seeking the Miami-Dade County mayoral position, so Mr. Curbelo's career in elective office may not yet be at an end.

GA-7: Another final call was made early in the week. A machine recount actually increased Rep. Rob Woodall's (R-Lawrenceville) meager 419 vote margin to 433 votes. Former state Senate Budget committee director Carolyn Bourdeaux (D) conceded the result and offered the Congressman her congratulations. The final tally finds Woodall winning 140,443 to 140,010.

MI-13: Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones (D) won the special 13th District congressional election to fill resigned Rep. John Conyers' (D-Detroit) vacancy, but failed to secure the seat in the regular election. She had petitioned the House Administration Committee and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) asking for a waiver to be able to serve in the lame duck session without being forced to resign her local position. Since Ms. Jones cannot continue serving in the new Congress once the lame duck session ends, the Speaker ruled that she can take the seat for the balance of the year. Therefore, Ms. Jones will be sworn in to complete the remaining few weeks of this congressional term.

NM-2: Rep. Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs), who lost the Governor's race three weeks ago to his congressional colleague, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-Albuquerque), confirmed late this week that he will run for chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party next year, and has not ruled out making yet another attempt to regain the House seat he relinquished to run statewide.

In 2008, Rep. Pearce ran for US Senate only to see a Democrat win the House seat while the Congressman was losing statewide. Mr. Pearce re-claimed the congressional seat in 2010. With attorney Xochitl Torres-Small converting Pearce's seat to the Democratic column in this election, it is clear that the party will be looking to recruit a strong challenger. Since it would be difficult for the party to find a stronger candidate than Rep. Pearce, a second comeback run to regain the seat he voluntarily ceded for the second time would again have to be taken seriously.

NC-9: The North Carolina Board of Elections, comprised of four Democrats, four Republicans, and one Independent, this week refused to certify the 9th District election results that produced a 905-vote win for Republican Mark Harris. The Board Vice Chairman cited “irregularities” in one county as the reason to delay certification. The remaining eight members agreed, hence the seat was placed in political limbo. The Board will now reconvene today in hopes of rectifying the situation and making a final decision. We can expect a long court fight if the Board formally decides to deny Mr. Harris his certificate of election.

UT-4: Rep. Mia Love (R-Saratoga Springs) conceded her congressional race to Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams (D) late this week as the final vote counting concluded. Though Ms. Love dominated the rural counties, Mr. McAdams' strength in Salt Lake County was enough to propel him to a close 694 vote victory from more than 269,000 ballots cast.

Governor

Louisiana: It has been presumed for some time that Sen. John Kennedy (R) will challenge Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) in next year's Louisiana gubernatorial campaign. And, it appears that we will know definitively early next week. Reports are that Sen. Kennedy will likely announce his intention to run on Monday. It is believed that he will not draw major Republican opposition should he choose to enter the race. Developer Eddie Ripsone is already in the Republican race, and Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-Alto/Monroe/Alexandria) is expected to run, but may not if the Senator formally becomes a candidate.

Early polling suggests that Sen. Kennedy would force Gov. Edwards into a run-off, and appears well positioned to potentially defeat him in a such a subsequent campaign.